Hawaii governor calls special session on gay marriage

If a bill is passed, Hawaii would join 13 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., in allowing gay marriage

Hawaii is already among a handful of states that allow same-sex civil unions.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, called Monday for a special legislative session to move forward on a bill that would legalize gay marriage in the state that already allows same-sex civil unions.

If lawmakers pass a bill, Hawaii would join 13 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., in allowing gay marriage. The special session would begin on Oct. 28.

While Hawaii already allows same-sex civil unions, gay marriage advocates say those unions stops short of the full benefits of marriage. Abercrombie told reporters Monday that civil unions would stay in effect, allowing couples to decide if they want to get married, if the bill passes.

"This is a question of equity," Abercrombie said. "In a democracy, particularly in one that has our constitutional framework, equity that is fair treatment for everyone is a singular hallmark of it."

Proponents of gay marriage in the state renewed their efforts after seeing two U.S. Supreme Court rulings come down in June that were in line with their views, including one ruling that struck down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that in turn granted federal benefits to same-sex couples married in states where gay marriage is legal.

Abercrombie has been considering a special session since the rulings. He met privately last week with Democratic lawmakers in the House about the issue.

A draft of the bill released by his office last month proposes that Hawaii begin issuing marriage licenses next month. If passed, ceremonies could begin in November.

Support for the bill is tight in the House, and lawmakers discussed different portions of the bill Friday, House Speaker Joseph Souki said last week.

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

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